UKRAINIAN families fleeing bombs and bullets following Russia's invasion have thanked the 'fantastic' Northwich community for welcoming them with open arms.

Two years on from the beginning of the war, there are now pockets of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, seeking sanctuary all over Cheshire.

Very few men have been able to leave the country as those aged between 18 and 60 have had to stay in case they are called upon to fight the Russian invaders, leaving wives separated from their husbands and children from their fathers.

One such pocket is in Northwich, where around 40 Ukrainians have settled, including one family group related to Nataliya, who is married to Hartford resident Brian read.

Ukrainian families have thanked the Northwich community for making them feel welcome since seeking sanctuary here two years ago after Putin’s invasion.

Across Cheshire there are pockets of Ukrainians, mostly women and children, who fled to escape the bombs and the bullets.

There are very few men because males aged 18-60 have had to stay at home as they could be called upon to fight the Russian army. This has left wives separated from their husbands and children from their fathers.

There are about 40 Ukrainians in Northwich including one family group related to Ukrainian-born Nataliya who is married to Hartford resident Brian Read.

Nataliya’s sister Hanna and her sibling’s two daughters Viktoria, 17, and Anastasia, eight, arrived early in the conflict with the help of Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, who visited for a catch-up at the weekend.

After setting up a life here, Hanna has started her own beautician’s business and cleans in a care home.

Viktoria speaks fluent English and is studying tourism at college where she has made some good friends, while sister Anastasia is at The Grange Junior School, which has supported several Ukrainian pupils and she too speaks English like a native.

Unfortunately, their dad has had to stay behind but he’s safe for now.

Nataliya and Hanna’s elderly mum Lyudmila is also here along with their cousin Viktoria and her two young children.

Arina is eight years old, and Mykola, now three, was only 12 months old when war broke out.

Viktoria’s husband is a soldier, currently based in relatively safe region around the capital Kyiv, but she worries about the future.

Giving an insight into daily life for many Ukrainians, she explained: “My mum and dad have stayed there and everyday there are bombs. Everyday my mum sleeps underground. It’s really very hard.”

Family friend Polina is staying locally with her mother Vira and 10-year-old son Michael. As with all the younger women, she has found employment – working as a housekeeping assistant at a local hotel – and like them, she misses her husband terribly.

She said: “We keep in contact just online and check in with each other – ‘Good morning’, ‘good night’, ‘Is everything OK?’, ‘Any sirens, bombs?’.

“We miss each other so much and Michael needs his dad. Boys need their dads.”

She added: “We live in a military city and the first bomb was February 24, 2022, near my house. I said ‘Son, wake up! It’s war’.”

Nataliya said the Ukrainian men ‘will stand until they die’.

Thanking the community for welcoming her family and friends, she said: “It’s just a huge thank you to the community for being so supportive of Ukrainians.

"I don’t think it’s always easy to embrace people from other countries, but everyone has been great. It’s amazing.”

Nataliya met husband Brian 20 years ago when his company opened a Mothercare franchise in Kyiv and she worked for the shopfitters.

Brian, originally from Manchester, agrees the community has been ‘fantastic’ and singled out The Grange School for special praise.

But, he believes the Government closing a visa scheme allowing Ukrainians to join family members in the UK in future is 'sending the wrong message'.

He said: “The Government should be standing up for what they said they would do in the first place and taking away the right to come to the UK is not the message they should be sending to Vladimir Putin.

"It tells him he’s winning. As the war intensifies there will be fewer options for people to come here.”

MP Mike Amesbury, who has assisted several Ukrainians to secure visas to come to the UK, said afterwards: “I know what these families are going through and I am always happy to help whether in the community or in parliament in terms of the visa situation, for example.

"I long for the day when Putin is repelled, and our Ukrainian friends can return to their loved ones back home. At the moment it’s a horrific ongoing nightmare for them."